America's Greek Orthodox Leader Hopes Church's Divisions Are Healing

Archbishop Demetrios pushing for more available, participatory church

Four months after taking up his post as head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Archbishop Demetrios says he hopes the sometimes rancorous and bitter divisions that plagued the 1.5 million-member church in recent years are starting to heal.In a recent interview with Ecumenical News International (ENI), the 71-year-old archbishop struck the same conciliatory tone that marked his enthronement last September, when he took over from his beleaguered predecessor, Archbishop Spyridon, and urged church members to look towards the future rather than dwell on recent problems.Archbishop Spyridon resigned in August. Much of his three years as church head were troubled by complaints from laity and clergy that his leadership style was too autocratic and at odds with America's democratic traditions. Relations with Archbishop Spyridon had become so strained that some of his most vocal opponents had talked openly of establishing a Greek Orthodox church in the United States independent of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, to which the archdiocese belongs.However, such suggestions ended with Spyridon's departure and the arrival of Archbishop Demetrios."What happened, happened," Archbishop Demetrios told ENI in an interview at the archdiocese's headquarters, not far from New York City's Central Park.Taking a decidedly historical and philosophical approach to the recent problems, Archbishop Demetrios, a Harvard-educated New Testament scholar, pointed out that the early Christian church was no stranger to controversy, and that struggling with problems, including those in its own ranks, formed part of the church's "continuity" as an institution."There are periods of difficulties," he said. "We have to face them, and then ...

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